5 Traits of Game-Changing Chief Revenue Officers

Learn how CROs can capitalize on new revenue opportunities.

Time to read: 3 minutes

Eliot Burdett
CEO, Peak Sales Recruiting

What does a chief revenue officer do?

Much has changed in the last five years. Artificial intelligence is here to stay; new foods like kale, quinoa, and avocado toast seem to have come over on a secret boat; and the C-suite added a new position called the chief revenue officer (CRO).

While the origins of kale and quinoa still remain a mystery to many, the CRO was born in Silicon Valley to capitalize on new revenue opportunities created by digital products and services — particularly the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry, which Bain & Company predicts will increase in global revenue from $180 billion to $390 billion by 2020.

As a long-time member of the B2B sales recruiting industry, I think there has never been a period of such rapid change and unprecedented growth. Hiring the right CRO is among the most critical hires your organization can make.

Here are the top five traits of game-changing CROs:

1. Sales, marketing, and CRM geniuses

Sales leaders used to be judged by how many knives or encyclopedias their team sold — net new revenue and profit. But today, effective revenue generation depends on a more holistic approach. Buyers are empowered by unprecedented information, and as the divide between sales and marketing erodes, companies that create a seamless customer journey are gaining market share. McKinsey conducted six years of research and found that companies that optimize the consumer journey increase revenue by up to 10% annually. Great CROs must be able to break down silos so that sales, marketing, and CRM are aligned and working together to create the best possible experience. As Hyatt executive Maryam Banikarim correctly noted, “We work in a much more integrated fashion than we used to before. Once you focus on the customer versus yourself, there is no other way to operate. When you’re purely focused on who you’re serving, it forces all the other pieces to come together.”

2. Seasoned c-suite executive

Harvard Business Review wrote about the perils of the ballooning executive team, which began in the 1950s when General Motors CEO Alfred Sloan brought together a handful of business unit leaders to address company-wide issues. The article noted how the growing number of roles in the C-suite led to increased politics and competing agendas. C-suite politics has only gotten more intense today — and collaboration more difficult. A study published in Harvard Business Review of 95 teams from 25 leading corporations found that 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. This means the product development team may not work well with the marketing team or some similar permutation. That is why, aside from being a sales and marketing genius, your new CRO must be a seasoned executive, business leader, and diplomat who knows how to navigate the boardroom effortlessly.

3. Data driven

McKinsey recently surveyed 1,000 sales organizations around the world, and found that 53% of those that are “high performing” rate themselves as effective users of analytics. As more companies adopt an omni-channel sales and marketing approach — a seamless customer experience from online to in-store across any device — the ability to collect customer data to inform business decisions is unprecedented. For example, Cisco’s Q1 2017 earnings saw a 48% growth in recurring software and subscriptions resulting from using data to proactively address consumer issues to drive more predictable revenue. CROs also must be adept at monetizing the burgeoning digital marketing landscape. The best CROs, therefore, harness the power of data to drive and adapt go-to-market strategies and tactics that drive profitable growth.

4. Tech savvy

CROs must be tech savvy for a variety of reasons. First, they must know how a product integrates into a client’s technology stack to sell it properly. Secondly, they must understand how the product works to monetize it, which Arnie Gullov-Singh — the former CRO of Polyvore and current Head of Monetization at Yahoo — correctly noted in Forbes, “We’re seeing more and more people from product and tech backgrounds moving into sales leadership roles.” The ability to understand digital marketing techniques that can monetize data collection will be the big differentiator in 2018. The State of Infographics 2017 — a new study that surveyed 1,000 B2B and B2C decision makers — found that 65% of companies are relying on data visualization, content marketing, and infographics as part of their sales and marketing strategy. Thirdly, a CRO must be tech savvy because artificial intelligence (AI) is changing B2B sales organizations. Since AI will always be constantly evolving, complementing its power with a tech-savvy CRO will give your sales team a big edge.

5. Team builder

SBITV (Sales Benchmark Index’s monthly video show) broadcast an interview with the CRO of Rackspace, a $1.8 billion provider of cloud computing services. In the wide-ranging interview, Todd Cione correctly noted that “Hiring great talent is mission critical to any business success, and as a leader within my organization, it starts with me to always be recruiting. But it is everyone’s job to recruit, and our networks are rich with talent.” It is critical that the CRO you hire is a great recruiting and team builder because they themselves must know that in a rapidly changing world, they will need A-players from various disciplines if they hope to successfully implement their comprehensive revenue-generating plan.

In a rapidly changing economy, hiring a great CRO is critical to maximizing revenue across all areas of your business. Finding the right sales leader is different than it was even two years ago. By searching based on the five tips above, you will have a better chance of finding the right candidate to achieve aggressive growth targets.

Great CROs must be able to break down silos so that sales, marketing, and CRM are aligned and working together to create the best possible (customer) experience.”

Eliot Burdett | CEO, Peak Sales Recruiting


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